Wednesday, February 1, 2012

He Said What?

I ran on my first track team when I was in 5th grade (I attended private school where intercollegiate sports started in 3rd grade).  I was a sprinter, running 50-400 meter races.  I continued running track until I graduated from high school.  I was never a star but I was always solidly in the middle of the pack.  I was a consistent runner and a hard worker which won me a lot of sportsmanship awards and lead to me being team captain of my high school track team.  I started running road races when I was 15 because a lot of my friends were on the cross country team.  Running long distances is meditative.  It gives you time to organize your thoughts and relax.  Distance running for me was a welcome change to the stressful, fast-paced sprint races.    

At my fittest I was a size 10.  Not large by general population standards but definitely plus size for a runner.  Over the years my pants size has grown but my love for running has not.  I run a road race most months and attend local running events.  At this point I have been a serious runner for almost 25 years.  I typically run in 5Ks with the occasional 10 K.  Twice a year I pick a long race (10-13 miles) and  spend 3-4 months building up my mileage for those races.  At my training peak I run 25-30 miles per week.  Setting a running goal keeps me motivated.  I rarely place in a race unless there are only a handful of people in my age group.  But realistically, I don't run for any prizes, I run for the satisfaction of finishing the race.  My finisher t-shirt is my medal.    

People who know me, know that I'm a runner and often ask for my advice about shoes, training, etc.  But people who do not know me, do not think I am a runner.  Despite attending multiple events in my area and shopping at the same stores over and over again, no one ever remembers me or cares to treat me with respect.  I am usually asked if I am there for walking shoes.  For the last half marathon that I ran, a race official assumed I was picking up someone else's number at registration and was very vocal (and condescending) about how surprised he was that I was running the race.  When I got a pedicure yesterday I was treated to a monologue from the pedicurist on how serious a runner she was and how fast she runs, etc. so that she could prove to me that whatever I did wasn't on par with what she did.  

Over the years I have come to expect this bias but it still gets to me.  I buy all of my running supplies online unless I need something urgently.  On the internet I find an endless supply of information and products available to me without bias.  The reviews are from runners of all shapes and sizes and help me better pick products that suit my body-type and running style.  In online forums I find that many other runners have been treated to the same ignorant behavior and some of them have even taken a stand and told people off.  I wish that I could do that but generally I am so upset and surprised when it happens that I don't gather my thoughts until several minutes later and then I obsess over it when there isn't anything that I can do about it. 

Anyone who has every attended a road race will tell you that participants vary greatly in age, size, race and fitness level.  I have never been the largest/oldest/youngest person to complete a race and I can't imagine I ever will.  When I look at the race results I am generally in the middle of the pack.  I average any where from 10:30-12:30 minute miles depending on the distance and the consistency of my training.  There are always people who are in the 15-20+ minute mile pace.  I would never think that I am better than those people just because I am faster.  Their goal, like mine, is to be the best them that they can be and surpass personal milestones.  I remember every time someone has called me fat, has devalued my dedication to running or judged me in some other biased way.  I wish that those ignorant people would just shut up if they don't have anything constructive to say.    


  1. I'm sorry you've faced such ignorance and rudeness, Denise. It's sad that so many people have such a warped idea about what fitness looks like (also assuming that is has a "look") and then they go out of their way to try to make you feel that you aren't good enough, don't belong in the club, are deluded, etc.

    I urge you to snap back. If anything, I'm sure this post will enlighten some of the ignorant people.

  2. Thanks Ashley. I try not to let these people get to me but it's easier said than done.